The Media Test
We began the test drive-day at about 0900, with the lead driver giving us the safety briefing at the hotel.
Australia has some of the strictest road laws in the world, and it would be prudent for us to at least try to pay some attention to the briefing.
Our drive started with a 30-minute journey from our hotel to a local vineyard, which will be the main hub for the rest of the day.
In view of the current trend of downsizing engine displacements, the incoming Focus has been changed from the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated to a 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine. This move is expected, as the world comes to terms with the temporary nature of crude oil products, and increasingly-stringent emissions standards. This meant that versions of today’s engines are required to deliver the same amount of driveability as their higher-displacement counterparts of the past.
The 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine that we tested had a claimed 132kW of power (177.01hp) and 240Nm of torque (versus 167.67hp and 202Nm in the 2.0-litre). Enough, then, for the whole family. Additionally, Ford claims the new engine is six percent more fuel-efficient compared to the outgoing model’s 2.0-litre engine (6.2 l/100km, 16.13 km/l versus 6.6 l/100km, 15.15 km/l), with lower CO2 emissions to boot (146 g/km versus 154 g/km).
There are also many other improvements to the new engine that makes it more efficient than the previous iteration. Constructed entirely from aluminium (which makes the engine much lighter than old school cast iron), the 1.5-litre block is also equipped with high-pressure direct fuel injection (gasoline direct injection, GDI) and Twin-independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT). Essentially, Ti-VCT manipulates the camshafts to assist turbocharging while GDI squirts microscopically-accurate amounts of fuel into the combustion chamber, allowing optimum torque at low rpms and higher horsepower approaching peak rpms.
Note: While conducting research on the benefits of GDI, I came across a Society for Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) article addressing their concern with GDI engines in relation to port fuel-injected (PFI) engines. Specifically, the fuel-efficiency benefit of GDI engines is offset by the higher particulate emissions (5-10 times more) than PFI engines.
Dimension-wise, the new block is smaller (taking hints from the 1.0-litre EcoBoost first offered in the Fiesta in Malaysia), with an integrated exhaust manifold and a newly-designed cylinder head (which improves overall engine-cooling efficiency and implementation of the Ti-VCT). The integrated exhaust also improves turbocharger response (and by proxy, accelerator response) by being physically closer to the cylinders (less distance travelled by the exhaust gasses to spool the turbine up).
Ford’s PowerShift transmission from the previous Focus and Fiesta has been taken out and replaced with a six speed conventional torque-converter automatic gearbox (albeit, a lighter, more refined one). While the masses may question this decision, it most probably has something to do with the complications brought on by PowerShift’s shuddering and reliability issues, and the slew of dual-clutch transmissions (DCTs) operating in ASEAN’s humid and hot weather.
The suspension for the incoming Focus has undergone a minor tweak, giving the car a bit more traction in the corners, as well as a more comfortable ride. In one of Ford’s presentations, we were also told that the bush has been optimised, reducing horizontal movement in the lower portion of the suspension geometry.